The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

Excerpt

It is to my excellent friend Raymond Mortimer that I owe the discovery of this astounding book. In 1924 when I was still staying in Algiers, he managed with the greatest kindness to send me three English books -- two by John Stuart Mill: his Autobiography and his essay On Liberty, to which current events and the menace of "totalitarianism" were then giving a renewal of topical interest. This is a book I could wish to see everywhere promulgated, translated into every language, read and pondered on by all who still keep some regard for human personality, its duties and rights. The third book was a recent edition of James Hogg's Memoirs of a Justified Sinner, into which I at once plunged with a stupefaction and admiration that increased at every page. I made inquiries of all the English and Americans I came across in Algiers -- some of them remarkably cultivated. But not one of them knew the book. On my return to France I renewed my inquiries -- with the same result. How explain that a work so singular and so enlightening, so especially fitted to arouse passionate interest both in those who are attracted by religious and moral questions, and, for quite other reasons, in psychologists and artists, and above all in surrealists who are so particularly drawn by the demoniac in every shape -- how explain that such a work should have failed to become famous?

A short introduction gives us a little information. "James Hogg," it runs, "who was born in 1770 and died in 1835, is known to-day, for the most part, vaguely and at second-hand; those writings, which revealed the warmer side of his personality, having themselves fallen into neglect."

The great English Dictionary of National Biography, which I have consulted, speaks indeed of James Hogg, "the Ettrick Shep-

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